Africa

Libya crisis: Explosions shake Tripoli

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Media captionThe BBC's Ian Pannell is caught in the crossfire in Ajdabiya

Several large explosions have been heard in the Libyan capital Tripoli on a seventh night of bombardment by international forces.

Witnesses said a military radar site was on fire in the suburb of Tajura, a previous target of the air raids.

Col Muammar Gaddafi is said to have offered a universal promotion for everyone in the army and police, and proposed arming civilian volunteers.

Our correspondent says the government's latest move smacks of desperation.

The US, UK and France have taken the lead in enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone as the Libyan leader fights an uprising in its fifth week.

Saturday morning's blasts followed coalition strikes on Col Gaddafi's tanks and artillery around the eastern town of Ajdabiya.

Rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces are in a stand-off near the town, witnesses say.

Fighting has also continued in Misrata in the west where residents reported shelling continued late on Friday.

The White House has announced President Barack Obama will address Americans on Monday evening, explaining his policy and decision-making on Libya.

'Diminishing ability'

US military spokesman Vice Admiral William Gortney said Col Gaddafi had "virtually no air defence" and a "diminishing ability to command and sustain his forces on the ground".

"His air force cannot fly, his warships are staying in port, his ammunitions stores are being destroyed, communications towers are being toppled, his command bunkers rendered useless," he said.

"We've received reports today that he has taken to arming what he calls volunteers to fight the opposition," he added.

"I'm not sure... if they are truly volunteers or not, and I don't know how many of these recruits he's going to get, but I find it interesting that he may now feel it necessary to seek civilian reinforcements."

Western forces began bombing targets last weekend in a bid to enforce a UN resolution that banned the Libyan military from launching air attacks on civilians.

There are three main aspects to the operation: Action to eliminate Col Gaddafi's air force and air defences, an arms embargo and strikes against ground forces which may be in a position to inflict civilian casualties.

Nato is expected to take over the lead of the entire Libya operation from the Americans in the coming days. It has already taken command of enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo.

Nato has appointed a Canadian general, Charles Bouchard, to oversee the no-fly zone operation and the arms embargo.

Meanwhile, Qatar became the first Arab state to join the campaign, with two of its Mirage aircraft flying missions over Libya, its military said.

The initial leadership of the operation and the bulk of the logistics have been borne by the US, but President Barack Obama has been insistent that the US should not continue to lead the intervention.

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